Provides an overview of the toll system implemneted in Oslo, Norway
Through the first part of the eighties there was a comprehensive debate of how the car traffic in the city centre of Oslo could be reduced and how new roads could be constructed. Several of the ideas were in favour of consumer financing. Different ways of payment were considered, including petrol tax, local toll ring for the Oslo tunnel, increased parking charges etc. The basis of the toll ring system ended up being quite complex. Three main reasons for this were:
1. Unsatisfactory traffic flow with significant delays for all traffic. This was the most important reason, which was confirmed by estimates that proved that the delays meant an additional expenditure of one billion NOK for business and trade in Oslo annually.
2. Public grants for transportation in the Oslo Region, had for some time been relatively low. This was because of a combination of the national policy of giving priority to the provinces and a poorer public economy in Oslo (on municipal and regional level). The toll ring was to contribute to the carrying out of a project within 15 years, as opposed to 35 years financed by public grants.
3. Local environmental problems with traffic hold-ups and pressure on local streets and residential roads.
The objective of the toll ring system is to reduce car/vehicle traffic in the city centre and to raise money for financing urban infrastructure investments . The tolls are collected by a company owned by Oslo municipality and Akershus country municipality. The system consists of nineteen toll plazas situated in a distance of three to eight kilometers from Oslo city centre. It is impossible to drive past a toll plaza in the direction of Oslo City without paying a toll. A single pass may be bought at a coin machine or at a cash desk. Electronic punch cards and electronic season tickets make it possible to pass without speed reduction. 70% of all passes (80% in the rush hour traffic) are by electronic cards or tickets, which contribute to eliminate the possibility of queues. One single pass is 12NOK (1.6 ECU), 24 NOK (3.2 ECU) for heavy vehicles. In addition there are different kinds of electronic punch cars and electronic season tickets. The last mentioned gives an unlimited number of passes within a subscription period of 1, 6, or 12 months. The average subscription fee per pass to the subscribers is estimated to approx. 6 NOK.
Results so far
In terms of cost effectiveness, it can be said that approx. 220 000 vehicles pass the toll ring on an average day (The road with the most heavy traffic has as much as 46 000 per day). Approx. 40% of all drivers in the Oslo region passes the toll ring daily. Gross income the last three years has been more than 600 mill. NOK ( 80 mill. ECU) annually. Operational expenditure is approx. 11%, which is significantly less than the cost of administrating ordinary taxes. Thus the toll ring system might be seen as a very effective collection system.
Results can be summarised;
- The first year after implementation the number of cars passed through toll ring plazas was reduced by 10%. The number of cars was less reduced during rush hours, somewhat more reduced for leisure time traffic.
- Estimates show that the price per pass would have to be 3-5 times higher than at present to have any significant effect on car traffic. >
- It is expected that better traffic management has resulted in better quality of life, less congestion in the city centre and thereby higher quality of the central public spaces and finally improved traffic safety.
- The significance to the environment is very much in dispute. It is obvious that the streets and buildings which are relived by a tunnel, build by the money collected from the road toll system, gets significantly less noise and air pollution.
- Within business and trade one warned strongly against the toll ring. General observations do not indicate any immediate economic consequence for business in the centre of Oslo.
- The general tendency through a number of years to relocate residents as well as work-places and business and trade from central into more remote parts of the city region has benefited from the toll ring system and help using available land outside the city centre.
An important reason for the introduction of the toll ring was the need to raise money for upgrading the main road system to an acceptable level. This ambition was underlined by the fact that the toll ring plazas were to be removed when a certain number of new infrastructure projects (mainly tunnels) were completed by year 2003-2007. However, if the collection of toll should stop at that time, it would means 80 mill ECU less annually for road construction and other infrastructure enterprises, which is more than a 50% reduction. Everything indicates that beyond year 2007 there will also be a significant demand for infrastructure investments. Most likely this will give rise to ideas of reconstructing the already established toll ring. A very likely possibility is the introduction of "road pricing" and "traffic management" in a more extended version. Detailed statements indicate that time differentiated rates may remove all queue and congestion problems and at the same time maintain the current income level. In addition it will give an environmental advantage. By changing prices, the specific goals for earning revenue, can easily be combined with traffic reductions.
In 2008 the tolling system was renewed as the equipment has reached the end of its operational life. Furthermore, the charging area was extended to the western part of Oslo where new charging points were installed. Today Oslo's toll plazas are automatic. All vehicles shall drive through without stopping. If you have an AutoPASS tag (subscription), you will be charged according to the AutoPASS agreement. Information about tariffs available at http://www.fjellinjen.no/takster/takster_i_oslo_og_berum_1/en